Call Answered: Brett Chapin Interview: A Sneak Peek into the Life of a Working Actor

actor film movies producer television tv Apr 24, 2024
Call Me Adam Title Page. Call Me Adam logo is on the left side. Brett Chapin's headshot is on the right side. In the top center of the page is an orange circle with jagged edges that says Featured Interview. Between our photos it says A Sneak Peek into the Life of a Working Actor. Below the title and in between our names there is an auburn circle that says

After watching the film version of West Side Story, Brett Chapin knew he wanted to be an actor.

Upon graduating from Laguna Playhouse conservatory training program, Brett relocated to Los Angeles where he has worked in countless film, theatre and television productions including General Hospital and Grey's Anatomy.

Currently Brett can be seen in Apple TV's Palm Royale, where he spent six months as one of the featured background actors.

In this interview, Brett answered my call to reveal:
  • How West Side Story made him want to go into acting
  • The misconceptions of being a background actor
  • Who he still wants to work with
  • Advice he wishes he got before getting into the entertainment industry

Connect with Brett: Website, Instagram

Brett Chapin, Photo Credit: Michael Roud Photography

1. Your interest in the arts was sparked after seeing the film version of West Side Story. Who in that film or what was it about that film that made you want to pursue a career in the arts? There's a scene early in the film where the character Riff has a number called "Something's Coming." It's a song and dance and Richard Beymer completely captivates the audience. Another voice was used in the film, but the song is about having a feeling that something new and amazing is just around the corner.

He took me to that sidewalk in New York where the scene was taking place. I felt like I was standing there with him listening to him tell this story about a dream he had the night before. Couple that with the  rest of the film and I was hooked for life. I wanted the ability to give others that same experience. To draw them in and captivate them with great storytelling. It was the first time that I thought about the arts as something that I could pursue.

2. You just spent six months working on Season 1 of Apple TV's, Palm Royale, as part of the core featured background actors group. For those of us that don't know, can you share what a day in the life of a background actor is like on the set of a TV show? Thank you for asking this question because I think there's a lot of misconceptions around background acting that I'd like to try and address. The majority of background actors are continually pursuing lead, featured, series regular and co-star roles. Few enter this business to make background acting the goal, however there's so many benefits to working in background while pursuing more substantial work, that I think many are unaware of.

There's no better learning experience than being on set and background acting provides a vehicle to be there every day, listening, working, learning and having a great time. While larger roles might only come sporadically, with core background work, you're usually working often. The more opportunities to work on set, the better.

I learned so much on the set of Palm Royale. It's the kind of real world education that you can't get from a book or class. Most background actors that I've met, especially in the union, are professional actors and background is their day job. They're some of the most hard working, professional performers that I know.

I've had so many memorable experiences both in a background capacity and in more substantial roles that I could never count them all, but the majority of us are continually looking for more substantial roles. That's part of being a responsible working actor, but the stereotype of the wet behind the ears, wide eyed background actor; I've found to be inaccurate.

That said, there's not much that's complicated about the process or different from any other screen acting job. You check in, get set up with costumes, hair and makeup. You wait for the crew to set up the shot and you go out there and work with the directors to get the shot right.

The process can be a bit different for television than feature film as far as the time constraints go. It's more sped up with television. While a feature film might only shoot a few pages in a day, television can be filming multiple episodes at a time. We might be in one costume before lunch and after lunch be moved backwards in time and are in a different costume, filming a completely different episode that took place a month earlier. It certainly keeps you on your toes.

Brett Chapin, Photo Credit: Michael Roud Photography

3. What did you enjoy most about being on the set of Palm Royale for so many months? The people. I can tell you it was the learning experience, or the fun costumes they had us all wearing or meeting Carol Burnett. While those were all amazing, more than anything it was the people. The friends I made.

When you're working together for months creating anything there's an energy that follows. Everyone bonded well and I think part of that was because we knew we were creating something different. The writers built a place for us to explore that was unlike anything that I've ever worked on before. The plot is just so sharp and thickens at every turn. I'm so pleased to have been a part of creating that world. It's unlike anything I've ever seen on streaming television before.

4. Who do you still want to work with that you haven't had the chance to yet? There's so many legendary actors who I admire. Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep come immediately to mind, as they would for many, but in actuality, my next great scene partner. An education comes with having great scene partners and I've been fortunate enough to have had many. I'd like that to continue. There's a certain amount of strength and simultaneous comfort that comes from having scene partners who you trust, can trust you, and are just as committed to the material as everyone around them.

It's always apparent on stage and screen when that happens and it's electrifying. That chemistry is what truly draws an audience in and allows them to be fully immersed in the story. It's exciting to be a part of that. Working with committed actors and with great material provides that experience. I'm looking forward to the work that seems to be coming in 2024 and can't wait to work with my next scene partners.

5. What advice do you wish someone gave you about acting or the entertainment industry, that you had to figure out for yourself, but would have liked to know beforehand? In the entertainment industry and really as a person, you can't be moved by motivation. Between auditions, self tapes, classes and other responsibilities, motivation alone won't be enough. The motivation is found in showing up. Doing what you need to do on an everyday basis to accomplish whatever the thing is for you. So many times, I've heard, "I want to get new headshots, but I have to lose 20 pounds first," or "I want to go to that class, but I just don't have the time." Things like that. It's the quickest way to find yourself spinning your wheels.

I'm coming from a place of having lost opportunities due to failure to act and I know what comes with that. We all have stories of failure to take action, but try to minimize those. Don't wait. Get the headshots now, go to the audition now, make time for that class now, get your reel/resume in order now. Treat this as a business always. You don't get the motivation and then go and act accordingly. You do the thing and that gives you the motivation to act accordingly. It really is that simple.

 Brett Chapin on ABC's Grey's Anatomy

6. In addition to performing, you executive produced and co-hosted 200 episodes of LA LA Land Talk, the nationally broadcast talk show focusing on Los Angeles entertainers. What did this gig provide you that acting did not? We created LA LA Land from the ground up literally from ideas first scribbled on a napkin. There's no better crash course on learning to think on the fly than co-hosting a talk show. It's similar to improvisational acting.

I remember one episode where the power kept going out in the building and we kept having to start the live show over and over. Or the episode where our guest canceled at the last minute and I had to fill the entire hour on my own, playing music and talking with our board operator. Fun memories. We were working on the show every week booking guests, writing questions, answering viewer emails.

It was time consuming, but so important because it really taught me to develop my listening skills which I think is such an important skill for an actor to have. It also provided me a space to showcase the incredible artists of all kinds that we have based here in LA.

There's just so much talent here that's untapped. I'm not sure even I could grasp the volume of it until a couple of years into working on the show. We started on a napkin and ended up being broadcast into over 6 million homes. That's something I'll always be very proud of.

7. How do you feel your experience as an actor helped prepare you to executive produce/host this show differently, than if you weren't an actor? As an actor I always hoped I could reach past the surface and ask questions that elicited a deeper answer. I never wanted our audience to only know our guest's credits. I tried to get into their history, why they started, hopes, fears, who inspired them, what's important to them. That's where the essence of a person is. Not only in their accolades, but what moves them. I think being an actor helped me to do that. To reach further. I hope we accomplished that. I believe we did.

8. What was a question you asked your guests that you wish an interviewer would have asked you? (Please provide your own answer to said question.) What are your three favorite sounds?

  • The deafening silence of a theatre audience when you know you've hit them where they live
  • My dog's bark
  • My Father's voice

9. What is something we didn't get to talk about in this interview that you would like my audience to know about you? I am so grateful to anyone who has ever gone to a play, seen a film or tv show that I've worked on, followed me on the socials, supported me in my career or supported me as a person. I wouldn't have chosen this career path if not for some incredible people who I've been lucky enough to call friends, over the last three decades, both in the arts and out. I'm always growing and I'm looking forward to the next three. Thank you for everything.

Brett Chapin, Photo Credit: Michael Roud Photography

More on Brett Chapin:

The youngest of five, Brett grew up in Laguna Beach, California. His interest in the arts was sparked early, after watching the film version of West Side Story. He graduated under a full scholarship from the nationally recognized, Laguna Playhouse conservatory training program. After furthering his education, he relocated to Los Angeles where he has worked in countless film, theatre and television productions, including General Hospital, Grey's Anatomy and 1600 Penn. Film appearances include Hitchcock and Saw III.

He also created LA LA Land Talk, a nationally broadcast talk show focusing on Los Angeles entertainers and broadcast into over six million homes weekly. Brett executive produced and co-hosted 200 episodes. Recently he spent six months working on Season 1 of Apple TV's, Palm Royale.

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